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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
Table of Contents
Introduction
Genesis Vision
Learning Planet
Organic Universe
Earth Life Emerge
Genesis Future
Glossary
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I. Our Planatural Edition: A 21st Century PhiloSophia, EarthTwinity, Ecosmic WumanVersion

B. An Anthropocene Era as a Major Emergent Transitional Phase

Johnson, Steven. The Long Zoom. New York Times Magazine. October 8, 2006. A profile of Will Wright, the creator of the SimCity and Sims online series of video “games,” who has now expanded horizons to a work in progress called Spore. No less than the entire evolution of the cosmos, life and sentient, proactive organisms will be its playing field. As a default, this realm must be biological in kind, as it develops and emerges as an embryonic sequence. Akin to the Powers of Ten vista, it is then necessarily arrayed in a progressive scale of being and becoming. While physicists and philosophers seem to confound themselves, a once and future vision of a natural genesis whereof human persons have an active role appears to gain cultural currency.

Kafatos, Menas. The Science of Wholeness. Tymieniecka, Anna and Atilla Grandpierre, eds.. Astronomy and Civilization in the New Enlightenment. Analecta Husserliana, 2011. Presently a Chancellor at Chapman College, physicist Kafatos was long a George Mason University Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. He is also author with Robert Nadeau of the 1999 The Non-Local Universe and in 2000 The Conscious Universe. This paper is an update synopsis of such an integral, creative cosmos, which is seen to have these essential qualities, albeit in abstract terms. A part/whole Complementarity holds not only for quantum realms, but with Niels Bohr, is manifestly evident at every emergent plane. Information is “a universal ontological principle of existence.” From their deep reality, nature’s laws are Semantic in kind as they engender an evolutionary Becoming. Fourthly, this cosmic development proceeds by a sequential, invariant Self-organization. A fundamental Consciousness then infuses and rises with its teleological development. Once more from this visionary volume comes a glimpse, awaiting translation, of a human genesis universe, a family cosmos.

Kauffman, Stuart. Beyond Reductionism: Reinventing the Sacred. Zygon. 42/4, 2007. Physician, biologist, philosopher, Renaissance person, Stuart Kauffman offers with constant brilliance his latest thoughts on an imminent revision in science and a consequent organically numinous cosmos, that he has played a major part in articulating since the 1960s. A sign of our old myopia is that he should have received the Nobel Prize in Biology for his work, that is if there was one. Prizes for physics and chemistry, but not for studies of such a natural genesis of arisen life and mind.

In this brief article I wish to discuss the first glimmerings of a new scientific Worldview – beyond reductionism to emergence and radial creativity in the biosphere and human world. This emerging view finds a natural scientific place for value and ethics and places us as co-creators of the enormous web of emerging complexity that is the evolving biosphere and human economics and culture. (905) Thus, beyond the new science that glimmers a new worldview, we have a new view of God, not as transcendent, not as an agent, but as the very creativity in the universe itself. (905)

I believe, I hope correctly, that what I have sketched above is true, points to a new vision of our co-creating reality, that it invites precisely an enhancement of our sense of spirituality, reverence, wonder, and responsibility, and can form the basis of a transnational mythic structure for an emerging global civilization. (914)

Kauffman, Stuart. Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion. New York: Basic Books, 2008. Stuart Kauffman is a modern Renaissance person. Originally trained in the 1960’s as a physician, later an ER resident in Chicago, he has since the 1970’s been the prime visionary theorist for a self-organizing, emergent nature. Now at the University of Calgary, his prior writings such as At Home in the Universe are iconic in this regard. He would have received a Nobel Prize in biology if there was one. This present opus covers in various chapters his lifetime concerns such as advancing beyond reductionism, origin of life studies, ‘self-organized critical systems’ poised between order and chaos, agency and work, order for free, a quantum brain, nonlinear economics, and so on all as they might inform a viable global ethic. His 1990s synthesis of a generative self-organization prior to winnowing selection is now fruitfully accepted.

For one comment, Chapter 9 extols The Nonergodic Universe, but this technical term might lead to some misunderstanding. (Web definitions of ‘ergodic:’ relating to a process in which every sequence or sizable sample is equally representative of the whole; positive recurrent aperiodic state of stochastic systems; among a variety of nuances.) By ‘non-ergodic’ Kauffman means a nature that is “vastly non-repeating.” As an evolutionary trajectory moves into an “adjacent possible” it spawns a “ceaseless creativity.” While such liberties are extolled by postmodernism, (a mindset which K. does take issue with) they are seen to occur sans any guidance as to what or why to so create. See Mark’s Taylor’s After God for an example. Without a sense of a discernible course or purpose, it remains so much novelty for its own sake. All this needs to be sorted out. (Might the “god” in ergodic be what we are looking for?)

In any event, upon this conceptual basis, a new sense of immanent Divine activity accrues. Rather than a remote, juridical Deity whom may capriciously intervene, an intrinsic, natural propensity for emergent creativity is seen to take on a sacred quality. As a result, human beings may embrace a reenchanted, numinous cosmos whence this fertile essence will support life’s future florescence. In this project, Stuart Kauffman has collaborated with Harvard Divinity School theologian Gordon Kaufman (search herein) who also is seeking to evoke an intrinsic spontaneity.

These properties of order, chaos, and criticality are independent of the specific physics involved. They rest on mathematical features of complex networks. Like the collectively autocatalytic sets we saw in chapter 6, these emergent properties of gene networks are not reducible to (particle) physics. We need a truly new worldview, well beyond the reductionism of Laplace and (Stephen) Weinberg. Finally, these results for vast classes of model genetic regulatory networks suggest that self-organization, order for free, is as much a part of evolution and natural selection as historical frozen accidents. We must rethink evolution. (119)

At levels of complexity above atoms, the universe is on a pathway, or trajectory, that will never repeat. For example, in the evolution of the biosphere, from molecules to species, what arises is almost always unique in the history of the universe. Using the physicist’s technical term, the evolution of molecules and species in the biosphere is vastly nonrepeating, or nonergodic. (120)

It is now true, it begins to appear, that the unfoldings of the universe, biosphere, and human history are all fully describable by natural law. As we will see, this radical claim has, among its consequences, a radical and liberating creativity in the unfolding of the universe, biosphere, and human culture and history, we can reinvent the sacred, and find a new view of God as the fully natural, awesome, creativity that surrounds us. (134-135)

Kauffman, Stuart and Philip Clayton. On Emergence, Agency, and Organization. Biology and Philosophy. 21/4, 2006. The premier living complex systems theorist and the leading philosopher of a oriented evolution collaborate to explore, join and exercise concepts and landscapes. But a dense, arcane paper results, the authors seem more tentative and wary than they should be of realizing the immensity and validity of a greater genesis creation they are trying to describe.

Keller, Catherine. Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming. London: Routledge, 2003. In contrast to an explosive point of cosmic origin and subsequent linear time, the masculine model, a feminine reading would find a "tehom," an amniotic fluid out of which life and being develops embryonically within a fundamentally organic universe. Poised at the edge of chaos and order, vital creation is seen to arise by its propensity for fractal-like self-organization. Rather than pedantic sequence, in this book a stream of consciousness narrates a living, interrelated presence.

Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking, 2010. The digerati author, world traveler, and cofounder of Wired magazine, here offers his consummate opus. But alas it comes across as a metaphor-mixing conflation betwixt the Ptolemaic machine or cosmic Copernican genesis revolution. In early chapters Kelly rightly makes a good case for a self-organizing, progressively emergent evolution, alluded to as an Ordained Becoming. But along with confidant Ray Kurzweil, its latest phase or “singularity” over our computer interlinked planet is now taken as a fledgling technological entity seeking its own self-serving cognizance and ends. When a later chapter lauds the Unabomber (which he admits everyone told him not to do) one loses the theme, not sure of where Kelly stands. Finally, in lieu of some purpose, it is held that human and universe might be engaged in some Infinite Game,” from James Carse, whose intent is not a goal but just to keep the game going. Anyway we have set the quotes in reverse order for effect, whence the first regales this “technium” future.

What I hope I have shown in this book is that a single thread of self-generation ties the cosmos, the bios, and the technos together into one creation. Life is less a miracle than a necessity for matter and energy. The technium is less an adversary but an intermediary, smack in the middle between the born and the made. (356) Yet the fact that there is something in one corner that sustains itself against the starry vastness, the fact that there is anything bootstrapping at all, is an argument against the nihilism of the star. The smallest thought could not exist unless the entire universe and the laws of physics were in some way encouraging it. The existence of a single rosebud, a single oil painting, a single parade of costumed hominins strolling down a street of bricks, a single glowing screen waiting, or a single book on the nature of our creations requires life-friendly attributes baked deeply into the primeval laws of being. (356-357)

The ongoing self-organized mutability of life, evolution, mind, and the technium is a reflection of Gods becoming. God-as-verb unleashes a set of rules that unfold into an infinite game, a game that continually loops back into itself. (355)

The key insight gained by the last three decades of research on complex adaptive systems offers a contrary view: that the variation presented to natural selection is not always random. Experiments show that “random” mutations are often not unbiased; instead, variation is governed by geometry and physics, and most important variations are often shaped by the possibilities inherent in the recurring patterns of self-organization. (120) But a hundred, or a thousand, cases of isolated significant convergent evolution suggest something else at work. Some other force pushes the self-organization of evolution toward recurring solutions. A different dynamic besides the lottery of natural selection steers the course of evolution so that it can reach an unlikely remote destination more that once. (110)

In recent decades science has discovered that complex adaptive systems (of which evolution is one example) tend to settle into a few recurring patterns. These patterns are not found in the parts of the system, and so the structure that appears is considered both “emergent” and dictated by the complex adaptive system as a whole. Since the same structure will appear again and again seeming from nowhere – these structures can also be considered inevitable. (104-105)

As the seventh kingdom of life, the technium is now amplifying, extending, and speeding up the self-organized progress that propels biological evolution through the aeons. (103) I make the case in this chapter (Ordained Becoming) that the course of biological evolution is not a random drift in the cosmos, which is the claim of current textbook orthodoxy. Rather, evolution – and by extension, the technium – has an inherent direction, shaped by the nature of matter and energy. (103)

Kelso, Scott and David Engstrom. The Complementary Nature. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. From the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences at Florida Atlantic University, that nature’s ubiquitous contraries are not either/or opposites but inherently reciprocal in kind. By this view, a polarized world can be better appreciated and reconciled, especially by way of neural complementaries. An engaging website has been posted to accompany the text:
http://thecomplementarynature.com. An extensive book review of this breakthrough synthesis is posted in the Recent Writings section.

Koch, Christof. Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. In this accessible, personal account, a senior Cal Tech neuroscientist deftly joins the complementary title persuasions. A Reductionist: “because I seek quantitative explanations for consciousness in billions of nerve cells and synapses,” and a Romantic: “because of my insistence that the universe has contrails of meaning that can be deciphered in the sky above and deep within us.” This meld of laboratory studies with philosophical implications engenders a rare allowance of an innately developing, quickening, awakening, earthly and cosmic genesis vision.

A prime theoretical basis is the “integrated information” theory of his colleague, University of Wisconsin neuropsychologist Giulio Tononi, which perceives aware sentience to advance in tandem with the relative degree of knowledge. By these lights, Tononi (search) likewise believes that a universe change is merited from an insensate mechanism that returns phenomenal self-conscious human beings to a central place. Indeed, many such negative pronouncements about what kind of reality say more about the author than the cosmos. If to take in the whole expanse of a universe that by its own propensities evolves human persons who can so witness and discover, unburdened by predilections or paradigm, then a purposeful scenario avails. “I feel deep in my bones that the universe has meaning that we can realize.”

Finally, I describe a plausible quantitative theory of consciousness that explains why certain types of highly organized matter, in particular brains, can be consciousness. The theory of integrated information, developed by the neuroscientist and psychiatrist Giulio Tononi, starts with two basic axioms and proceeds to account for the phenomenal in the world. It is not mere speculative philosophy, but leads to concrete neurobiological insights, to the construction of a consciousness-meter that can assess the extent of awareness in animals, babies, sleepers, patients, and others who can’t talk about their experiences. The theory has profound consequences that bear some resemblance to the prophetic ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. (6-7)

It (life’s genesis) was accompanied by the emergence of nervous systems and the first inkling of sentience. The continuing complexification of brains, to use Teilhard de Chardin’s term, enhanced consciousness until self-consciousness emerged: awareness reflecting upon itself. This recursive process started millions of years ago, in some of the more highly developed mammals. In Homo sapiens, it has achieved its temporary pinnacle. But complexification does not stop with individual self-awareness. In today’s technologically sophisticated and intertwined societies, complexification is taking on a supraindividual, continent-spanning character. With the instant, worldwide communication afforded by cell phones, e-mail, and social networking, I foresee a time when humanity’s teeming billions ands their computers will be interconnected in a vast matrix – a planetary Ubermind. Provided mankind avoids Nightfall – a thermonuclear Armageddon or a complete environmental meltdown – there is no reason why this web of hypertrophied consciousness cannot spread to the planets and, ultimately, beyond the stellar night to the galaxy at large. (7-8)

Teilhard de Chardin is alluring because his basic insight is compatible with the observed tendency of biological diversity and complexity to increase over the course of evolution and with the ideas about integrated information and consciousness I have outlined here. (134) The rise of sentient life within time’s wide circuit was inevitable. Teilhard de Chardin is correct in his view that islands within the universe – if not the whole cosmos – are evolving toward ever-greater complexity and self-knowledge. I am not saying that Earth had to bear life or that bipedal, big-brained primates had to walk the African grasslands. But I do believe that the laws of physics overwhelmingly favored the emergence of consciousness. The universe is a work in progress. Such a belief evokes jeremiads from many biologists and philosophers, but the evidence from cosmology, biology, and history is compelling. (165)

Konner, Melvin. The Evolution of Childhood. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010. The Emory University anthropologist writes his 700 page, award-winning opus, thirty years in the making, slighted by a brief review. Its four parts: Evolution: The Phylogenetic Origins of Childhood; Maturation: Anatomical Bases of Psychosocial Growth; Socialization: The Evolving Social Context of Ontogeny: and Encultration: The Transmission and Evolution of Culture, explain how infancy, youth, and adolescence is understandable only through their genetic, cerebral, familial, and cultural evolutionary context. Each of its 30 chapters is rich with insights and vignettes.

But as the summary quotes convey, Konner goes on to succinctly perceive a unifying, eposodic pattern across life’s quickening ascent. An intrinsic presence of self-organizing, complex adaptive systems in generative effect prior to selection result in an analogous, iterative recurrence between phylogenies and ontogenies. If one stays with this large volume, in its conclusion can be found a cogent statement of a 21st synthesis that can include this missing generative source, along with a deep correspondence between an individual life course, and the emergent development that gave rise to ones own self. By so doing, it well recovers the “universal gestation” that informed Charles Darwin, his contemporaries, and earlier ages.

But consider the possibility that analogous models might be broadly applicable at very different levels of living systems – including behavioral and cultural ones – not just because they are complex but because they are living. In coast lines, tree branches, and other examples of the fractal geometry of nature, there is a self-similarity of structure at many levels from macro- to microscopic. Is it conceivable that there could also be a self-similarity of process at different levels of the dynamics of living systems, with different resolutions in time and space? (734)

This self-similarity would be a kind of recapitulation of evolutionary process rather than of phylogenetic stages and would be seen in various processes of ontogeny and in ongoing nongenetic adaptive change, whether behavioral, cognitive, connectionist, or cultural. The initial process of evolution built complex adaptive systems out of simpler ones and so did subsequent phylogeny in many lines. A parallel construction of complexity must occur in the individual live course of each multicellular organism. It would not be surprising to find that the processes that the living world discovered during the phylogenetic generation of complex adaptive systems were somehow made use of in the generation of such systems ontogenetically. (734-735) I propose that the algorithm variation, self-organization, challenge, selection is a general one in living systems, applicable to the levels of evolution, neuroembryology, neural connectivity, learning, socialization, enculturation, and culture change. (735)

It appears that there are analogous processes occurring at each of the four levels of observation discussed in the four parts of this book. In each, variation is generated, self-organization stabilizes some varieties, challenge makes them more or less adaptive, and selection favors some over others. This may not be satisfying as a theory, or even as whit I have called self-similarity in process, but it may be an insight into the nature of living things. Genome, nervous system, society, and culture are all information-storage devices and as such are life’s answers to the second law of thermodynamics about entropy. (740)

Kuppers, Bernd-Olaf. Elements of a Semantic Code. Kuppers, Bernd-Olaf, et al, eds. Evolution of Semantic Systems. Berlin: Springer, 2013. In this collection about life’s emergent trajectory toward better information with more meaning, the Friedrich Schiller University physicist, biologist, and philosopher expands beyond linguistic modes to affirm a clearly implied presence of an intrinsic source code. A prior, primary manifestation is, of course, its molecular, nucleotide genetic phase. As the quotes convey, by this 2010s vista, a deep correspondence can be discerned and averred between genomes and languages (languagome). What then, one is led to ask, might this “all-pervading phenomenon” actually be in its independent, immaterial essence, which so informs, guides, and is exemplified in a developmental evolution. Kuppers thus achieves one strongest endorsements of a natural genetic code we have seen so far. For a similar take, see On Semantic Information in Nature by Wolfgang Johannsen in Information (Online July 2015).

The Language of Genes Even though logical depth is a unique property of human language, we may consider the possibility that language is a general principle of natural organisation that exists independently of human beings. In fact, there is much evidence in support of this hypothesis. Thus, it is generally accepted that various forms of communication exist already in the animal kingdom, as revealed by comparative behavioural research. We also know that even plants use a sophisticated communication system, employing certain scent molecules, to inform each other and in this way to protect against the threat of danger from pests. And it has long been known that bacteria communicate with one another by releasing chemical signals. However, more surprising is the fact that essential characteristics of human language are reflected even in the structure of the genetic information-carriers. This analogy does not just consist in a mere vague correspondence; rather, it embraces largely identical features that are shared by all living beings. (73)

Let us consider some facts: the carriers of genetic information, the nucleic acids, are built up from four classes of nucleotide, which are arranged in the molecules like the symbols of a language. Moreover, genetic information is organised hierarchically: each group of three nucleotides forms a code-word, which can be compared to a word in human language. The code-words are joined up into functional units, the genes. These correspond to sentences in human language. They in turn are linked up into chromosomes, which are higher-order functional units, comparable to a long text passage. As in a written language, the “genetic text” includes punctuation marks, which label—for example—the beginning and end of a unit to be read. (73) The language of Nature is more to be understood as an all-pervading natural phenomenon, which has found its most elementary form of expression in the language of the genes and its highest in human language. (74)

Kuppers, Bernd-Olaf. The Computability of the World. International: Springer Frontiers, 2018. The emeritus natural philosopher gathers wide and deep writings from his active project to explain how life and evolution arose, that a realm of structural, informative dynamics seem to be in effect, in regard, a more lively, integral physics is necessary, which then requires a conducive scientific method and so on. For example, we post a salient chapter abstract.

Bernd-Olaf Küppers is an internationally renowned physicist and philosopher of science. For many years he did research at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. From 1994 t0 2009 he was professor of natural philosophy at the University of Jena.

In this thought-provoking book Küppers, an internationally renowned physicist, philosopher and theoretical biologist, addresses some of science's deepest questions: Can physics advance to the origin of all things and explain the unique phenomena of life, time and history? How did life originate? Is language a general phenomenon of Nature? Is it possible to express the history of the world in formulae? Where is science leading us? These and other provocative questions essential for a deeper understanding of the world are treated here in a refreshing and stimulating manner.

Communication takes place not only among humans, but also among animals, plants and bacteria. Even the molecules of heredity, as carriers of genetic information, appear to be organised according to the principles of language. Is there really a “language” of molecules, underlying every living thing? (Is Language a General Principle of Nature?)

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